DMV Daily: Lanier Stays

Gray also names AG, fire chief

Vincent Gray will nominate Cathy Lanier to continue to serve as head of the Metropolitan Police Department, keeping the District’s most popular government official on the job.

Washington City Paper’s Rend Smith reports police union leader Kris Baumann said rank and file cops are “furious” about the news. Baumann says officers are angry that Lanier has “taken an annual 10 percent raise during a three-year stretch in which those ranks didn’t receive their usual 3 percent raise,” and also claimed that Gray went back on his word to involve them in the decision process about who would lead the MPD.

But Lanier’s 80 percent approval rating, and popularity among those who voted for Adrian Fenty, were probably just too tempting for Gray to pass up.

The Washington Post reports Gray also tapped U.S. House of Representatives general counsel Irvin Nathan to be the next D.C. attorney general. Nathan looks a good bit like the man he’ll replace, Peter Nickles, but Gray hopes that’s where the similarities will end. “Nathan will join me in taking politics out of the office of the attorney general and ensuring that public safety decisions are not clouded by political motives,” Gray said. City Paper’s Alan Suderman says Nathan “says he’s from Baltimore but has lived in the District (Ward 3) for the last 35 plus years.”

Gray’s other big pick of the day was Sarasota County, Fla., fire chief Kenneth Ellerbe to head the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department. The selection comes with controversy. The Washington Times reports Ellerbe, who spent nearly three decades inside the D.C. fire department and briefly served as interim chief, left just a year and a half ago “under an unusual personnel exchange agreement that placed him on leave-without-pay status” to take the Florida job -- which would let him “collect his pension immediately upon his retirement instead of deferring his benefits until age 55 as he would have to do if he simply resigned.”

WTOP says Ellerbe “has been taking a tax deduction reserved for District residents, despite living and working full time in Florida.” He says he “will not take the tax break on his 2010 taxes,” and claims that he was “not aware he was responsible for changing his status, and thought it was the responsibility of his accountant.”

Elsewhere in the DMV:

* Candidates to temporarily fill Kwame Brown’s At-Large D.C. Council seat debated before the D.C. Democratic State Committee -- which, due to a quirky law, gets to choose the interim councilmember -- Thursday evening. The person they pick in early January will hold the seat until after an April 26 special election.

Among the highlights: early frontrunner Vincent Orange vowed to follow Marion Barry’s lead in getting developers to hire locals, and Sekou Biddle, one of Orange’s most serious rivals, said councilmembers should not get budget earmarks.

As for the others, contender Calvin Gurley compared hiring those who live outside D.C. to “genocide,” candidate Stan Mayes was frank in admitting he does not know how to fix the District’s troubled youth rehabilitation department, and Dorothy Douglas pointed out that she is the only female candidate. Sal Solorzano was the only debate participant to promise not to run in the April special election.

* The tit for tat between the Post and Harry Thomas Jr. continues. Following on Thomas’s latest complaint about the paper’s latest editorial about Thomas’s controversial nonprofit, the Post again aims its editorial pen at the Ward 5 councilmember. The Post writes that the same year that Thomas “raised $188,110 for his nonprofit Team Thomas, another group associated with Mr. Thomas apparently purchased an Audi sport-utility wagon, base price $58,600. A year later, in 2009, the vehicle was re-registered in Mr. Thomas’s name.” While nothing so far constitutes “proof of wrongdoing by Mr. Thomas,” his “refusal thus far to shed light on these and other issues is troublesome and should, we hope, attract the interest of the office of campaign finance.”

* Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans opposes proposals to increase the D.C. income tax, DCist reports. “It’s never for me,” Evans said in an interview. “That’s the fallacy of raising the income tax. Frankly, it’s an easy way out; it’s popular. Of course we want to tax the millionaires and save the grandmothers program, but then it really gives the Council the opportunity to not make the tough decisions.”

* The Times reports interim D.C. schools chief Kaya Henderson “said she will review union concerns about the teacher-evaluation policy instituted by former Chancellor Michelle Rhee, though she insisted that evaluations themselves are not on the negotiating table.” Henderson also said she was unaware that Rhee “had unveiled a proposal to give vouchers to D.C. special-education students who don’t attend city schools.” Henderson “said her administration ‘has really been about building capacity’ to keep special-ed students within D.C. Public Schools, where ‘disinvestment’ has led to years of ongoing litigation.”

* In the day’s least shocking news, the Post reports Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli could run for governor in 2013. He told WMRA Radio, “A number of people have asked me about the governor’s race and at this point I’m just deferring that. I do expect to run for reelection but I have not ruled that race out.” Cuccinelli said he will not be a candidate for U.S. Senate in 2012. The Post also today runs an op-ed from Cuccinelli regarding his fight against the new federal health care law’s insurance mandate.

* The Post reports Gov. Bob McDonnell wants state employees to pay 5 percent of their salaries as a contribution to their retirement costs to bolster Virginia’s pension system. The proposal “would reverse a 27-year deal with employees in which they have paid nothing for their retirement.” The Examiner says employees “would receive a commensurate 3 percent pay increase and the changes would provide an additional $300 million to the retirement system in fiscal 2012.”

* The Post reports Maryland gay-rights advocacy group Equality Maryland “has hired Alexander & Cleaver, an Annapolis lobbying firm, to help push for legalization of same-sex marriage in the upcoming legislative session.” The Post says the move “underscores the greatly improved outlook for passage of such legislation after last month’s elections.”

* ARLnow reports Arlington County Board Vice Chairman Chris Zimmerman unexpectedly resigned from the Metro board on Thursday. Zimmerman has represented Arlington on the board since 1998. The Examiner says the news “surprised both his peers on the 14-member Metro board and transit advocates who consider him a champion of riders’ interests.”

Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC

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